I Know It’s Up for Me, If You Steal My Sunshine

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Skin care in the sun eh?  I bet you’re all thinking SUNCREAM right about now?  A lot more than that can and does go into taking care of your skin in the sun though.  I’d like to think this piece will be useful to everyone with different skin types, as well as my friends who have albinism too.  And also, I’ll take this chance to point out that this isn’t medical advise in any way, shape or form – its just a rambling piece about my thoughts on the topic and what has worked for me in the past.

It can be hard to take care of pale skin in the sun, especially when friends are sallow skinned and seem to tan instantly – which makes them want to spend days sitting in the sun even more.  In the past I’ve happily taken part in these sun sessions, but guess what happened? Burnt scalp, burnt arms, burnt ears etc.  And aside from the dangers of anything more sinister than sunburn blisters, it is really painful and uncomfortable.  So here are a few of my tips:

1.  Check the weather.

There are apps for this so you have NO excuse not to do it.  All during the summer months, I check the forecast every morning to check how intense the sun will be, if there are clouds due, and what times of the day that sunshine is expected.  If you have business to attend to during the day, you might decide to do it at a time when the sun is less intense or when it is overcast.  Above anything else, its helpful to plan an outfit – especially shoes!  Trust me, you do not want to be caught in a pair of cute flipflops when rain is pouring down on top of you!

2.  Choose your outfits wisely.

If I know it’ll be sunny on a particular day, I’ll plan to wear light clothes that will cover problem burn areas like shoulders or the upper back.  You can still look bright and feel comfortable in summer clothes even if you are a tad more covered than friends.  Shorts or strapless tops are a major no-no for me in the summer months, it is just too easy to get sunburned in those or to fail to apply suncream properly to these areas.  A lot of people say black should never be worn in the summer either as it attracts the sun, although I wonder is that a bit of an old wives tale!

3.  Suncream!

There is more to skin care in the sun than suncream, but it is a big part of keeping your skin healthy.  Its important to pick a suncream that will give you the right protection of course, but also one that you’ll be happy to wear too.  It’s pointless buying a suncream that is intensely heavy because you won’t want to wear it and it will be irritating to even apply.  Personally, I have always found the sun spray types best as they are much lighter than traditional suncreams, and as they have a spraying nozzle, they are also easier to apply.  Even the higher factor coverage in these sprays isn’t as gloopy as the typical sun creams are.  Just remember to constantly reapply every hour!

4.  Wear makeup if at all possible.  And sunglasses!

This probably sounds a bit over the top right?  But remember, most liquid foundations do have an SPF level within them.  And its a lot nicer to have makeup with sun protection covering your face, rather than applying suncream.  Keep in mind that the coverage in makeup isn’t that high though, and check your own foundation for its SPF level.  Remember to keep sunglasses around you at all time – especially in Ireland because you may never know when you need them!  Invest in a pair with good protection from the sun too – UV rays can and do damage eyes year after year, and so a pair of sunglasses with substantial protection are a worthy investment.

5.  Do your best to sit in the shade.

Simple but effective, and you would think it goes without saying, but that’s not always the case.  I always have to be reminded to sit in the shade!  If you’re in the park with friends who want to sunbath, try and sit near a tree or statue that can give you shade form the suns rays, while still allowing your friends to bask in the rays.

6.  Look out for moles and skin changes. 

I can’t stress this enough.  Moles that have recently changed shape or colour should always be observed by your GP, especially if they are in an area of your body which has been previously sunburned.  For more info on what type of changes to look for, click here – because I’m not a doctor and this is just an opinion piece and not medical advice in any way!

Hopefully, this piece will be useful not just to those with albinism, but also to anyone who is looking to protect their skin from the sun!  Anything you can add to this list of skin care in the sun?  Drop me a line through the blog page! In the meantime, check out this sunny selfie I took with a meerkat in Fota Wildlife Park on the Cork Rose tour recently – the meerkat didn’t really cooperate though!

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The Rose Tour and The 5.30 News

That title is a little intriguing isn’t it? Its been a busy few weeks to say the least. But often, when I put my mind to something, I’ll end up doing it alongside another project too, another project that is a world away from the one I just started.  So here’s the lowdown. Some of you may know that I’m heavily involved with an Irish mental health charity, Suicide Aware.  They work to promote positive mental health in communities and organisations around the country, and they also offer counselling for those suffering from mental health difficulties.  I really believe in the work this charity does, and I’m a public advocate of mental health services and service users.  Which is why I was honoured when they asked if I would speak about my mental health story at a national level recently.  And instead of me waffling about it, watch it here instead.

Only two days after this broadcast, I found myself getting ready for a meeting of a different kind.  An information evening about the Cork Rose selection. A few months ago, this same fantastic charity had asked me to represent them in the Cork Rose Selection process which is taking place over the next few weeks.  It is an amazing opportunity for girls from all walks of life to come together for a meeting of minds, dresses, shoes and other things.  Whoever is selected to represent Cork as a Rose will also have the chance to represent this fine county in the Rose of Tralee Festival in August too.  So fingers crossed! I have been to two Rose Centre events already, and I can honestly say I feel my confidence growing with the passing of each event.  There is such a welcoming atmosphere in the air.  And the thing I am most of afraid of – being the different one – doesn’t cost anyone else a thought!  What better confidence booster than that?  That ‘feeling different doubt’, as I call it, follows me around everywhere I go, and has done since I was a teenager.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d nearly say that it’s a symptom of the albinism!  But I can truly say I’m feeling myself shake off that doubt every time I walk in to a room with these girls.  And long may it continue – well for the next few weeks it will anyway!11143487_476575165824448_4252663570901157107_n

Don’t Let Pride Get in Your Way

Flash back to the end of August.  I’d had a pretty jam-packed summer; trips to Dunmore East, Liverpool and Inis Mór.  And now I was settling down to start my masters in Government, back in UCC.  So I’m out shopping for the typical college stuff (pens, papers, highlighters) when I get a phone call.  Its from the Irish Guide Dogs Centre and they’ve found a place for me on one of their Independent Living Courses.  The course is taking place for the entire following week so I accept my place, pack a bag, and take all kinds of gear with me as its a residential course.  Sounds like I did it without even a second thought, doesn’t it? Except there was a second thought, plenty of second thoughts.

Sometimes, I find it really intimidating to partake in some of the workshops/sessions/fun-days that are run for people like me with vision loss or blindness.  I find some courses to be a total box ticking exercise – its a case of “ah sure we’ll run that course now and we’ll be done then for the year”.  Depending on the organisation of some courses, you can go in waiting to feel empowered and then come out totally deflated.  This was definitely a fear I had and kept thinking about all the way out to the Guide Dogs Centre in Ballincollig.  I had all these reasons in my head why I didn’t need to go/why I shouldn’t go:

 

– I manage grand at home, I can do some things

– I don’t really need help from anyone else, I can sort it myself, why does everyone think I need heaps of help?

– If this is a box ticker in any way, I’m high tailing it out the door.

 

Well, what a surprise I got!

 

Arriving on a Monday, I was given most of the day to settle in and meet the others in the group, as well as the course instructors and the other staff.  Together, we all got a tour of the building, and got to grips with the facilities that were there for us to use during our stay.  Then one of our instructors explained the structure of the week to us, which basically consisted of us learning during the day, and making our own fun at night.  The course was open for us to do what we wanted with it.  So as a group, we all came to a consensus about what we wanted to cook for lunch and dinner that week, made a list of what ingredients we needed, and decided on some extra household related things we wanted to learn too.  So we decided on smoothies, lasagne, casserole, curry, wraps, pittas, banoffee pie, and brownies.

Now, the whole point isn’t to learn how to make these specific foods, its really to equip us with skills we can use to make all kinds of meals for ourselves, and by extension of that, to make ourselves more independent in a safe way.  We learned how to use our other senses to tell how well our food was cooked (sound, smell, touch), what foods or sauces we were using (smell, touch), how to layer foods (touch, sound), how to use particular appliances safely (touch, sound), and how to make sure our area was clean after we’d cooked without necessarily using sight.

While we did have our instructors with us the whole time we were in the kitchen, it was still a case of “you must cook this – no one else will cook it for you”.  And that is exactly the kind of Independent Living Course someone like me needs.  Its about empowering ME to do something and finish a job MY WAY, no matter how different it is as long as its safe.  It is so daunting at my age to realise that in the next year to three years, I’ll be living on my own, cooking on my own, cleaning on my own.  And its daunting because I’ll be the one in charge of me, I won’t always have my parents or my brother to fall back on.  And I know they must wonder about it, as do I, thinking “Will she manage?  Will she cope?”.  So for me. getting these kind of skills was massively important.  It doesn’t just benefit me, it benefits those around me too.

Pride is a good thing.  But pride could have put a stop to me going out to the centre and learning all these fantastic, new, and badly needed skills.  Pride could have stopped me meeting new friends and us all sharing our experiences with one another.  I’m so glad I took that particular leap of faith and didn’t let my hesitation or previous experiences stop me – I would have lost out on so much.  I can’t speak highly enough of the training and empowerment I got from this course, words could never describe it well enough  It taught me a lot about not letting pride stand in my way too.

 

If you would like to support the work of the Irish Guide Dogs For The Blind, or want to find out more about their services, please click here where you can donate through their webpage or search through the different types of courses run.

 

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Me & My Albinism

If you took a look at me here’s what you’d see; an average looking 21 year old student who looks a bit younger than what she is, and is a little too short for her age, who sometimes looks grumpy but has an infectious smile and laugh when you bring it out in her. You’d see a girl with golden blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin that is, more often than not, covered up by makeup that’s a few shades darker. One thing that would not be obvious at a glance is my hidden disability.

So what is my disability? A mouthful of a thing called “occulocutanious albinism”. A condition that primarly affects my sight but also gives me pale skin and stops me from tanning. Its pretty severe; I can only read the top letter of the eye chart in a doctors office – and that’s on a good day! Strong sunlight, my workload and the length of my day all have an affect on how “good or bad” my eyes will be during the day. It sounds pretty awful, and when a doctor or nurse who doesn’t know me reads this on a chart, I get look of pity which is unbelievably uncomfortable! It’s genuinely not that bad though – I absolutely love my life. I love my family, my friends, the course I study in college, the politics I’m involved in and everything in between! Don’t get me wrong – it’s not all sunshine and lollipops because I do have some awful days. But don’t we all?

What I’m trying to achieve by keeping a blog is to reach out to others like me, and others who are just interested. I want to let people know what college and life in general is like for someone looking out at the world with imperfect eyes. Hopefully I’ll achieve this without rambling too much and you’ll all find it interesting too!

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